Saturday, June 29, 2013

The language of silence

Two friends of many years, would meet in each other's house every day.  They would sit in perfect silence for a couple of hours, then the visitor would get up and leave, without a word of farewell.

The inevitable happened and, during the natural course of things, one of them died.

"You must be missing your friend a lot," said a person to the survivor, during the funeral.

"I certainly do," replied the bereaved friend. "What I particularly miss are those long conversations we used to enjoy with each other."


Friday, June 28, 2013

The Letter to Galatians

We tend to believe that we live in the most modern age in the most advanced country with the most powerful military and currency on earth, equipped with the latest technology. You will be amazed at the parallels we have with the Roman civilization about 2000 years ago.

Let us have a bird's eye view at the Epistle of Galatians.

Brief background on Galacia:
Galacia was under the Roman empire and many believe it is where the French came from. Galacia was a prosperous country economically as a result of garment export and many traders used to conduct. Due to economic prosperity, and the influence of Greek culture, people used to lead a lavish and carefree lifestyle.

About St. Paul:
St. Paul is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds who ever lived and the chief architect of Christian church. As with any author, we get to take a peek into the author's mind by reading his/her works. In this case, by reading his epistles, we get to glance into his heart and can even learn the secrets of his power. In him, we can find a man of highest intellectual and spiritual powers, equally great in passion and action. Further, he repeats, "It's not I; It's the Christ that lives in me", thus expressing the zeal towards Jesus.

Trips to Galacia:
St. Paul visited Galacia three times between AD 51 and 54. The first trip was in AD 51, and he was not feeling quite well at that time. During these trips, he founded few churches spreading the word of Jesus Christ, converting numerous people (towards Christianity). He continued his travels to other places such as Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, etc., leaving preaching and church administration to others. During the absence of Paul, these preachers conveniently succeeded in troubling and perplexing the faithful - the formula they used to mesmerize the crowd was that of half-truth - i.e., revealing only parts of the scripture thus bending the truth in their favor. Ultimately, these preachers were preaching a whole new 'gospel' and sure enough, it was favored by many.

Word reached Paul about those happenings at Galaaice, and during his later visits (to Galacia), he found such uneasiness in the way people were leading their 'Christian life'. The plain speaking apostle considered issuing them a warning in the form of a handwritten letter - which is known to us as the Epistle to Galatians.

In Galatians 1:8-9, it says, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!"

This is precisely the song we sing at church, "Paul the Lord's Apostle said... " or Paulosu slee-haa, dha-nnya-nn choll-kka-ttaee.... " It is referring to those priests in Galacia who were teaching the 'other gospel.'

Theme of the letter:
The overall language of Paul to Galatians is quite harsh. We find some of the toughest language here such as in chapter 3:

1 "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
4 Have you experienced so much in vain - if it really was in vain?
5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”.

One of the biggest topic being debated in Galacia (during the absence of Paul) was about circumcision - which stemmed from the doubt whether Christians should follow the law of Moses or not. Christianity was viewed pretty close to Judaism at that time. Next, Paul talks about righteousness and the importance of faith. He concludes that circumcision is not really necessary for those gentiles being converted into Christianity, and faith brings righteousness.

He then encourages Galatians to walk by the Holy Spirit, and warns not to walk in the desires of the flesh. Flesh is what is possessed by a human body and what we own in our own power. Walking in the power of flesh, it is even possible to carry out religious activities - to go to church, preach a sermon, etc.. The deeds of the flesh are evident and certainly visible when the flesh is not led by the Spirit. Just like today, every activity of the flesh we can think of, was being practiced by the Galatians in a much louder sense.

In the letter to Galatians, Paul says, "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." - 5:17.

Next, Paul goes on to explain the deeds of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. Those deeds of flesh really does not require much explanation, being so common around us. The fruits of the Spirit - well, deep inside we know they are noble traits which every human being appreciates. It is an irony that men journey in the ways of flesh, searching and desiring those fruits of the Spirit - Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.

If we plant a mango seed, we can expect to grow a mango tree with mangoes - not a coconut tree. This is what Paul writes in Galatians 6:7-10.

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

My dear readers, ignorance of the Holy Scripture lies at the foundation of our religion and how unfortunate that we are ignorant about our own ignorance. Our church teachers tend to shy away from discussing about the general outline of this epistle and the intricate details, because it's quite embarrassing to explain this particular letter. To me, it is analogous to picking up a mirror, looking at my face and seeing my own ugly reflection in it. For those who are thirsty, the scripture it out there to be picked up and read.

Wisdom and truth are out there in plain sight so much to the extend that we utterly fail to see it; some pretend they did not see it. Amid the clash of contending opinions, there is one infallible source of truth - The Holy Bible. In the midst of numerous teachers, there is one infallible guide - The Holy Spirit. Both Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit are guaranteed to guide us in the right direction - always! The real question is, "Do we want to be heading in the right direction?" The idea of heading in that right direction sounds good to our ears, however, "Thank you - maybe later" is what mostly many of us may think - plus, "The Bible and the Holy Spirit can always wait - right now, let me enjoy a bit more."

Know that Paul wrote some parts of the epistle in uppercase and even in large letters - just how we emphasis importance using large fonts and uppercase while yelling at someone. Even that is documented by Paul in his letter.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! - Galatians 6:11.

I encourage you to read this epistle when you get a chance - it contains just 6 chapters. Being a slow reader, I completed all 6 chapters in 15 minutes.

Of all the books we read and study during our lifetime, the one we tend to ignore the most - the Holy Bible is crucial for an individual. It contains all the wisdom required to lead a wonderful life in the eyes of God. For an occasional reader, it may be hard to understand what's written in it; but believe me - if anyone looks for it as for silver and searches for it as for hidden treasure, the Holy Spirit will guide us in mysterious ways. All I can tell you is that, my friends, God is still in the business of working miracles around us. As a priority, our allegiance should always be to the one God who created us, who gave us a chance to live our life, and He who takes care of our entire needs - and not toward any human beings.

Finally, of all the books we read, every one of it becomes old fashioned during the course of time. The only one that withstands the test of time and lives forever, is the Bible - wonder why?


Thursday, June 27, 2013

The new media

Ever since the world of social network exploded on the internet, kids have been looking for cool hangouts. First came MySpace, an experimental ground for many. Several of us burned our fingers without knowing how cool it was.

Later, everyone flocked towards Orkut, abandoning MySpace - equipped with those valuable lessons learned. Orkut used to one merry and jolly hangout providing warm and fuzzy feelings, where thousands shared pictures and for the first time, met up with old and lost friends. People would not go to bed until they had added new 'friends', read updates from others or post scraps.

Then came along Facebook and millions flocked towards it, jumping ships from Orkut, making it look like an abandoned world. On the other hand, if you did not have a facebook account, you were frowned upon and looked down. Twitter flew in almost at the same time and many still use it. Facebook became the premier site for meet ups, sharing photos, chats and updating status quo. I had one (to look cool), but never used it.

During those early stages, facebook appeared to be a safe haven for hangouts - until Mom, Dad, Uncles and Aunts came along and started sending invites - even from ends of the universe. Kids could not resist these invites and were forced to accept them chiefly due two reasons - (a) to look cool by exhibiting more friends on their profile and (b) to avoid unpleasant conversation with Mom and Dad for ignoring Uncle Joe and Aunt Moe. Within no time, the 'friends list' soared to hundreds and arguably, even strangers were on that list. They later discovered that it was no longer a 'safe place' to hangout as their own privacy was compromised. During those long distance phone calls across continents, a child's fb posting becomes an inevitable topic and kids used to be confused and get into all sorts of troubles - for posting 'this' and not sharing 'that'. The reason - fb became more of a family get-together, than a 'private party' which kids envisaged; same story with Google+.

To avoid future mishaps, our kids found a way out - maintain the same old fb account with minimal or occasional postings (appearing innocent) - which provided a temporary relief for the parents, noticing reduced activity on the social media. What the parents did not know was that youngsters were already on other greener pastures. These would be places known only to those in the 'inner circle'. Further, they assumed 'avatars' which would not reveal their true identity to parents and the public. The idea is to weed out 'troublemakers' and have a secure and private world.

Microblogging sites such as Tumblr, Pheed, 4chan and Path saw more youngsters join. Tumblr is popular among girls, while 4chan is the one boys prefer. Tumblr and Pheed are bit skewed for mobile usage, but Path seems to be mobile friendly. Path also wants to restrict friends circle to 150 - your choice. There are umpteen social media websites to discuss, which is beyond the scope of this posting.

LinkedIn continues to be the media for professionals. Youngsters typically join it while they are in their senior year of college, just before job hunts.

Youngsters big on mobile messaging have found alternatives as well. WhatsApp and Kik have gained popularity. Folks in the middle east have seen user community switch to Line.

When Picassa continues to be a family photo share site for grown ups, youngsters were not quite happy with all the crowd - they had moved on to Instagram, only to find the same audience comprising of Mom, Dad, Uncle & Aunt there as well. The latest unexplored territory is SnapChat. The beauty of SnapChat is that those pictures are self-destructed after the recipient watches it - remember Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, receiving those secret messages?



Overseas Citizenship of India

Consulate General of India, Atlanta shall start Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) / Person of Indian Origin (PIO) / Renunciation Certificate Support services starting 1st July, 2013.

View the press release here.

More on the topic here

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jesus at Gethsemane

Most of us have seen the portrait above. As a Christian, if you had to explain this painting, a good majority of us would say, "That is Jesus Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane."

Absolutely Right!

However, I wonder how many of us know the significance of this painting and what captivated those artists to canvas this particular moment in the life of Jesus Christ.

Art lovers know that a painting is silent poetry, and a poetry is painting that speaks. This particular painting is called 'Agony in the Garden'. 'Agony' is the spiritual struggle between the two sides of Jesus' nature, the human that feared suffering and wanted to avoid it, the divine that gave Him strength. 'Garden' here refers to the Garden of Gethsemane - an olive grove.

Now, join me on a trip to the Garden of Gethsemane - right outside the city walls of Jerusalem. It's dark and the moon is shining among those clouds. There is absolutely nobody outside the city walls at this time as everyone is celebrating passover. A slight breeze from the north is flowing over the array of olive trees and the leaves are whistling a soft music while the branches are almost stationary. There could be some birds on these branches, but they are not chirping at all. The garden appears to be quaint and quiet this night.

The scene takes place right after the Last Supper, where Jesus and three of His closest friends comes to the Olive Garden of Gethsemane - just as how we would include our closest friends during a time of crisis (for strength). The three highly favored ones, who could read His heart far better than those who merely see him in the crowd were Peter, James, and John. Further events that occurred in the Garden have reverberated down through the centuries.

Jesus appears to be very distressed and troubled at this juncture. Jesus says that His Soul is overwhelmed with sorrow. If you recall from the previous post (here), Soul is that part which makes up of our will, intellect and emotions proceeding from our senses (Self-conscious) - the part which connects the Spirit with the Body. He asks His friends to pray so that they were not tempted. He also asks them to watch over Him, and goes to pray. He requests the Father to take away this cup from Him, if possible. Jesus says that the Spirit is willing to take up this cup, but the Body is weak due to temptations. He then proceeds to pray.

After the prayer, Jesus to his dismay, finds all three of His friends sleeping. At this point, Jesus is in fear. When in fear, we produce sweat. It is a signal our body sends out to alert others around us. Some of us can feel the sweat in our palms or on forehead when we are extremely nervous, unstable, fear, pain, shock, or even anxious. Here, Jesus was sweating due to severe mental pain and that sweat was falling to the ground - in the form of blood. Medical science refers to sweating blood as Hematohidrosis - a very rare condition usually associated with extreme stress and high blood pressure. Now pay attention - it was not just blood, but drops of blood which did not just appear on His skin or get absorbed by His garments, rather, droplets of blood that fell on the ground. It's almost unimaginable the intensity of stress and mental pressure Jesus absorbed. It also shows how much He loved the mankind.

Then there is a second time Jesus observes His friends sleeping and asks them to watch over Him. He repeats to them about temptation and the need for prayer.

Later, a third time, the friends are still sleeping, unable to keep up with their master - all the while, Jesus is battling with His soul, crying vehemently and sweating blood.

One hour - that's all He requested His closest friends to watch over Him, but sadly they could not. During that one hour, He is looked upon as the biggest sinner in history and was enduring the most agony in His lifetime battling His biggest fear. At that point, Jesus knew that He was going to be all by Himself - purely human with all the limitations you and I have. His Father would not be with Him, His best friends would betray and forsake Him.

Jesus demonstrated no fear towards any man throughout His ministry. He was never afraid in criticizing the faith and beliefs of the Pharisees or Sadducee (read this to learn more about them). He taught thousands, "Fear not" and echoed it at least seven times. Still, what exactly caused Jesus to be so fearful to the point He was sweating blood? I am assuming here that Jesus feared something far more terrifying than mere physical torture and a horribly painful death.

Every one of us is afraid of death. I do not believe Jesus was afraid about His physical death, because I know people who have walked straight into the face of death - exchanging their earthly home for eternal home. Jesus warned people not to fear physical death, but spiritual death that would separate them from God for eternity. The great physician prescribed an anecdote in John 5:24 as well.

Would it make sense if Jesus knew the magnitude of God's wrath against mankind, which He was just about to consume all by Himself? If Jesus Himself saw the enormity of His Father's wrath on mankind and was terrified, what does that really say about us who give almost no consideration of it. Shouldn't we tremble and be afraid the way Jesus feared? Should we not thank Jesus for taking up all that heat and shielding God's wrath from us? Notice how Jesus submits His own will obediently to that of His Father.

Could His fear be due to the enormous amount of temptation Satan would bring about in the next few hours, at every step, attempting to defend his evil kingdom using every dirty trick and deception? The serpent from Eden would have grown into a humongous monster by feeding on those sins of people for thousands of years. Satan would have certainly mocked Jesus about His Father and best friends abandoning Him. Satan would not have been a bit ashamed to even bribe Jesus, just to prevent Him.

Maybe the fear was because Jesus, as a human, thought His strength was insufficient to bear all that sin He was supposed to bear. Maybe Jesus felt weak and wary in the physical and mental fight that He was about to take up. Feeling weak because He was going to be murdered for being truthful, faithful and obedient - and for countless crimes which He never even committed.

Even during that hour of agony, the weapon used by Jesus to overcome this emotion is prayer. He withdraws from His three best friends to a stone's throw away and conducts lonely prayer. Jesus is having a one to one conversation with the Father. Not just once did He pray, but thrice - the same prayer; a humble one. We ought to learn from Jesus the benevolence of these private prayers where nobody is watching except God. The result - an Angel is sent from Heaven to console Jesus and strengthens Him.

We may never know the exact cause and nature of that fear that lurked in the background on that evening. Garden of Gethsemane was the point where Jesus Christ appeared to be sorrowful, troubled, and feared the most. Jesus, the Son of God, had to bear up all the moral filth of those He was saving. It was the most challenging activity that anyone has endured so far. The good news is that, He conquered it all - for us through tremendous suffering. The story of that extraordinary night - especially that hour has been depicted in art, books, music and movies for centuries, for there has never been such a night in history.

Nevertheless, the painting above portrays a calm and relaxed Jesus praying, but hopefully now you understand a bit about those emotions at play and the excruciating battle Jesus was fighting. Scroll down to see what other artists captured in their imagination.

Isaac Watts wrote a poem,
"And all the unknown joys He gives,
Were bought with agonies unknown."

How much ever I try to comprehend, I cannot fathom the depth of agony Jesus had to endure. I believe that Jesus Himself must give us access to understand what happened during that one hour at Gethsemane. Some of you readers may have a far better understanding than I do. I admit that I am far from understanding and all I can do is wonder in awe, watching that painting.

So true that -
“It is to God, and God alone, 
That His griefs are fully known.”

In conclusion, whenever I look at the 'Agony in the Garden', it should remind me about the prayer of Jesus, encompassing (1) those harsh mental sufferings Jesus had to undergo at that hour - sweating droplets of blood. (2) Emphasize myself that prayer is the only shield to be used during distress and temptation. (3) It shows me the significance of solitary prayer - one on one communication with God. (4) It will reminisce me of the verse 'Thy will be done' in the Lord's Prayer and to submit His plans over mine. (5) Finally, I should recall that earnest and obedient prayers can strengthen one - just how the Angel arrived.

-------------------- At Gethsemane-------------------

Matthew 26:36-46
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 
37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.
44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Mark 14:32-42 
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 
33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.
34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn't you keep watch for one hour? 
38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.
40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 
42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Luke 22:39-46
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.
40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,
42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.
46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

---------------- Related paintings ---------

Christ and the disciples going out into the Garden, Nikolai Gay
Christ and the disciples going out into the Garden, Nikolai Gay

Christ in the Garden, Nikolai Gai, Russian painter
Christ in the Garden of Olives, Nicolai Ge 

The Agony in the Garden, Ambrogio Bergognone, 1501
The Agony in the Garden, Ambrogio Bergognone, 1501

The Agony in the Garden, Giovanni Bellini, 1459
The Agony in the Garden, Giovanni Bellini, 1459

Agony in the garden, James Tissot

Agony in the Garden - Adriaen van de Velde (1665)

The Agony in the Garden, Lo Spagna
The Agony in the Garden, Lo Spagna

The Agony in the Garden, Hans Holbein the Elder, 1505
The Agony in the Garden, Hans Holbein the Elder, 1505

The Agony in the Garden, Jan Gossaert
The Agony in the Garden, Jan Gossaert

Agony in the Garden, the south transept of San Esteban in Salamanca, 17th centuryfrom Lawrence OP
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”Luke 22:39-46
Agony in the Garden, San Esteban - 17th century

The Agony in the Garden, Andrea Mantegna, 1431
The Agony in the Garden, Andrea Mantegna, 1431

Gethsemane, Carl Bloch
Gethsemane, Carl Bloch 

The Agony in the Garden, Fra Angelico, fresco, 1450
The Agony in the Garden, Fra Angelico, fresco, 1450

The Agony in the Garden, El Greco, 1590-1600
The Agony in the Garden, El Greco, 1590-1600

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemene, Heinrich Hofmann, 1890
Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Heinrich Hofmann, 1890
(My personal favorite, if I were to pick one)


The relationship between Spirit, Soul, and Body

Many Christians (like myself) do not learn from church about the functional understanding of Spirit, Soul, and Body in our daily lives. Maybe I was not paying keen attention to all those sermons. Many of us have heard sermons where we were made believe about the two-part identity (body and soul), and are ignorant of our spiritual identity.

Here is a verse which sheds some light on the constituents of a human being:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spiritsoul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23

When God created man in His image, man had the nature of Trinity - spirit, soul, and body. In simple terms, the Spirit serves God; the Soul serves the Spirit and the Body serves the Soul.

Spirit is that part which communicates with God (God-conscious).

Soul is that part which makes up of our will, intellect and emotions proceeding from our senses (Self-conscious).

Body expresses what the soul tells it to do (World-conscious).

The spirit of man is the communication link between man and God and vise versa. That communication channel was broken due to the original sin of Adam, which triggered God's wrath.  The soul is under the spirit. The spirit is a link to the soul and when the soul is in control of the spirit regardless if the control were coming from the Holy Spirit or the evil spirit, then it would come out from the heart of that person whatever the spirit has inspired. The body, simply follows those desires of the soul.

During the creation of man, God already provided with everything we need - which is contained in the Spirit. It is up to each individual to open up that channel from the Spirit to the body.

This was something that came to me as a revelation that unlocked my brain. Now, I have to go through the Holy Scripture and read it again to have a better grasp - there are numerous verses which talk about the Spirit, the Soul and the Body which I need to understand better. One thing that always baffled me (for quite some time) was when Jesus said, we could do greater things than Jesus Himself. I used to wonder, "Better than Jesus? How is this humanly possible - you gotta be kidding me." Well, Jesus has to be saying the truth; it's my limited knowledge and understanding with which I could not comprehend it in the physical realm. 

Wish I knew these things earlier!

John 14: 8-14

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: "Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 
11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 
14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Tate family

Ever heard about the Tate family? The better question would be, "How many members of the Tate family belong to our church?"

There is old man Dic-Tate who wants to run everything, while Uncle Ro-Tate tries to change everything. There's sister Agi-Tate who stirs up plenty of trouble, with help from her husband, Irri-Tate. Whenever new projects are suggested, Hesi-Tate and his wife, Vege-Tate, want to wait until next year. Then there is Aunt Imi-Tate, who wants our church to be like all the others. Devas-Tate provides the voice of doom, while Poten-Tate wants to be a big shot. But not all members of the family are bad. Brother Facili-Tate is quite helpful in church matters. And a delightful, happy member of the family is Miss Felici-Tate. Cousins Cogi-Tate and Medi-Tate always think things over and lend helpful, steady hands. And of course there is the black sheep of the family, Ampu-Tate, who has completely cut himself off from the church.

How about you - do you know anyone in the "Tate" family?

For those who did not get the humor the first time around, here is the key

Dic-Tate = dictate
Ro-Tate = Rotate
Agi-Tate = Agitate
Irri-Tate = Irritate
Hesi-Tate = Hesitate
Vege-Tate = Vegetate
Imi-Tate = Imitate
Devas-Tate = Devastate
Poten-Tat = Potentate
Facili-Tate = Facilitate
Felici-Tate = Felicitate
Cogi-Tate = Cogitate
Medi-Tate = Meditate
Ampu-Tate = Amputate

... and I can clearly see me being the black sheep of the Tate family.


Birbal on Prayer

During the reign of Emperor Akbar, the court musician Tansen once asked Birbal, "Which is the sweetest and most melodious voice at night time?

The answer he received was, "The voice that prays to God."

It is so true in every religion everywhere on the planet and across time. If we try, at our homes, we can produce that sweetest and most melodious voice without much effort. Look no further - all of us know the Lord's Prayer.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
(We are addressing our Lord and Savior with honor and worship. Imagine that you are standing in His presence. We can sing to Him, praise Him, give Him the glory for He gave us life and how much ever we thank Him, that will not be sufficient)

Thy Kingdom come.
(Let us be in the Kingdom of our Lord, where there is love, joy, happiness, where truth and justice always prevails. May our loved ones who don't know Him yet come into His Kingdom. Let it be anyone who is lost in worldly matters)

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
(May the will of our Lord be done in our lives, in our friends and families lives, and in all the earth. For, we do not know what is the end of our plans - only His plans and his will is right and are sure to succeed)

Give us this day our daily bread.
(Let us ask our creator, our Lord to please provide what we need to make it through just today, whatever that may be. He teaches us not to worry about tomorrow, but just to take one day at a time. Since he took care of us yesterday, He can very well take care of us tomorrow. For now, let us just concentrate on today)

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
(We are in debt, no matter who we are. Of course, we ask the Lord to forgive us of our sin and we relinquish the sins of those against us, whatever they may be)

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(Lord, help us to steer away from all the temptations that entice us. We are asking Him for deliverance from those things, whatever they may be).

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, Forever. Amen.
(And lastly, we proclaim our faith in the Most High, Most Powerful, All Encompassing King of Kings. And say Amen, "so be it!" in Hebrew).

This is the bare minimum amount of melodious voice we can produce from our homes every evening. Just as our body craves for food, our soul craves for God's presence as well.

Children, when you build your house, there will be several things that will be consumed into it - water, electricity, internet, grocery, etc.. Account for the outputs your home is going to produce as well. May this sweetest and melodious voice be one of the outputs produced from your home every evening. Make it a habit of spending few minutes in prayer each day - where everyone participates. Go around and call all those who live under your roof for a short prayer - nobody will object. If you find resistance, commit yourself in doing it for the first few days and within a shot time span, others will appreciate the melody and join you.

They say, if you are a regular attendee at church on Sundays and do not say the Lord's prayer during the rest of the days, you are being like an orphan the other six days.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The greatest subject

But they kept silent: for by the way they had disputed with one another, which one of them was the greatest. And He sat down, and called the twelve, and said to them, "If any man desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all."
- Mark 9:34-35 

Once there was a king who decided to set aside a special day to honor his greatest subject. When the big day arrived, a large gathering took place in the palace courtyard and our finalists were brought forward.

The first person was a wealthy philanthropist. This man was deserving of the king's honor because of his great humanitarian efforts. He had given much of his wealth to the poor, building orphanages, schools and hospitals throughout the land. The second was a celebrated physician. This outstanding doctor was deserving of honor for rendering his faithful and dedicated service to the sick for many years and discovering medicines that saved many lives. The third was a distinguished judge. He was noted for his wisdom, his fairness and his many a brilliant decision.

The last person presented before the king was an elderly woman. Her manner was quite humble, as was her dress. She hardly looked the part of someone who would be honored as the greatest subject in the kingdom. What chance could she possibly have, when compared to the other three, who had accomplished so very much?

The king was intrigued, and was somewhat puzzled by her presence. He asked who she was. Then the answer came,  "Well, my king, do you see the philanthropist, the doctor, and the judge over here? She was their teacher!"

This woman had no wealth, no fortune, and no special titles, but her giving changed countless lives that were helped, healed and changed forever.

We never know whose lives we're touching. As for me, there was someone who prayed for me, someone who gave me their valuable time, someone who educated about God and wisdom - so that I could grow. We as Christians can serve the Lord by sowing unselfishly into the lives of people He's put in our path - so that they may become great in God's Kingdom!